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Source: MIL-OSI Submissions
Source: Impact PR

One of NZ’s largest lingerie exporters is recording a surge in demand from women returning to the office – and finding their bras are no longer fitting.

The company’s virtual fitting service model is helping to grow multi-million dollar export revenue, targeting the up to 80% of women globally who wear an incorrect sized bra.

Sue Dunmore, Rose & Thorne managing director, says in the past decade the dynamics of the New Zealand lingerie industry have changed significantly.

She says the company’s investment in a virtual fitting model is providing a sales conversion rate of almost 100% in its domestic and international markets.

“Historically, the bra industry was dominated by cornerstone brands sold through department stores and big box retailers.

“Over time the dominance of the larger stores has waned as online shopping provided more variety and convenience – to the point that many actually removed their lingerie departments.

“In contrast, our business has evolved from purely wholesale at our inception, to now where over three quarters of revenue is through our e-commerce channels, and only a fifth of our business is still wholesale.

“The growth in online sales is also helping us expand our exports, which now make up around a third of our total sales,” she says.

Dunmore says that the majority of women are unaware their bra is not the correct size for their body shape.

“What we have seen during COVID, is when many women were working from home they were dressing for comfort – which in many cases meant they were wearing alternatives such as a crop top instead of an underwire bra.

“When they return to work, they find the more structured bras uncomfortable. We have seen a surge in demand for bra fitting services with women believing they have gained weight over this period.

“In reality however they have been wearing a poorly fitted bra for years and simply acclimated to what is in many cases quite unnecessarily high levels of discomfort,” she says.

Dunmore says a lot of women have hang ups from poor experiences with their first bra fitting as a young girl which has permanently put them off seeking professional help with product selection, which means they often choose a larger body size than they should.

“The process we are now going through both locally and for our international customers, is to get them refitted and into one that is the correct size.

She says poorly fitting bras can have a range of detrimental health and mental health impacts.

“In about 90% of cases I will take them down a bra size and put them up several cup sizes – because inherently a woman knows the bra doesn’t fit but she thinks she has put on weight,” she says.

Dunmore says they are fitting up to 40 women a day across their domestic and international customer base but are looking to scale up through expansion.

She says they are aiming to increase their global revenue to $15 million over the next three to five years.

“Our primary focus at the moment is growing the Australian market where we can see there is significant potential for growth – and it is well aligned with our timezone.

“From there we want to look further afield into other offshore markets however we need to scale up our virtual fitting service model – which will be a combination of automation technology and traditional personalised service via video appointments,” she says.

Dunmore says a portion of the market prefers to select lingerie by self measurement and they are using technology to help meet the needs of this segment.

She says their fitting service model has refined to the point where almost every woman who uses it becomes a long term customer.

“Our virtual fitting automation tool, the Pocket Bra Guru, uses algorithms to help women select the correct bra size.

“Bra fitting is part science and part art and our technology can fit to around 75% accuracy – however there is currently no substitute for the traditional in person measurement model, however we recognise there is a portion of the market that is looking for a self service option.”

Dunmore says the next stage of their growth will be supported by the launch of a new non-wire bra later this month.

“The market for wire-free bras has traditionally been confined to either an elderly or very young female market.

“We are seeing a global trend towards the mainstream uptake of non-wire bras for everyday use.

“What seems to be driving this is the MeToo movement – where choice of lingerie becomes more about comfort and less about aesthetics and sex,” she says.

Dunmore says the health impacts of poorly fitting can include back and neck pain as well poor posture and loss of self confidence.

She says the bust size of New Zealand women has changed significantly over the past decade and their range has expanded significantly to accommodate the evolving market need.

“When we first launched our business 11 years ago, our best selling size was 14B – today, it is double D.

“We have expanded our range to accommodate a wider variety of needs in this time as well. Our largest size when we started was 18DD but we now offer a 24G option and we are currently working on expanding this into K, L and M sizes.

“We are also seeing women moving into a wider variety of more physical roles such as manual trades which saw us create a new ‘active’ bra more suited to providing support in these careers.

“These bras are designed for the active woman; mums, tradies, nurses, teachers, policewomen, dairy farmers, corrections workers, office workers,” she says.

Dunmore says that bras need to be fitted once a year, more often if they lose or gain weight.